site.btaMajority of Bulgarian Community in Zaporizhzhia Oblast Is under Russian Occupation
The majority of the Bulgarian community in Zaporizhzhia Oblast is "under occupation", Vassil Mitkov, head of a Bulgarian association in Zaporizhzhia, told BTA Friday. "I am talking about Berdyansk, Melitopol, Prymorsk and Priazov regions, which have close to 30 Bulgarian villages," he said.
He said that the situation in Zaporizhzhia is tense, with "missle attacks all the time, destruction and victims". He added, though, that it has tended to get calmer in the past couple of weeks. "It is felt that the Ukrainian army is preparing for an offensive. We can see our aircraft near the city. It gives us hope for liberation of the occupied territories - and for victory," he said.
He said that many members of the Bulgarian community from Berdyansk, Melitopol and Prymorsk have managed to move on time to the town of Zaporizhzhia and other parts of Ukraine.
"Many compatriots have found shelter in Bulgaria: the members and leaders of the Bulgarian societies, Bulgarian-language teachers, others. But the majority remained in the occupied land. We hear occasionally from Bulgarians in Priazov, Prymorsk and Melitopol. The connection is poor, not always possible to talk to reach them. They tell us that life is hard under occupation. They are afraid to speak because their phones are bugged," said Mitkov. He said that several Bulgarians from the occupied territories have been arrested. "We are struggling to free them, they have been included in a list for exchange of detainees.. We hope to be able to help them," he said.
The Bulgarian community in Zaporizhzhia Oblast totals 27,764 people, according to the results of the Ukraine census in 2002. The vast majority of Bulgarians live in some 30 villages in the area of Berdyanski and Melitopol, as well as in Prymorsk and Priazov. The so called Taurian Bulgarians settled in present-day Zaporizhzhia in 1861-62. They are descendants of the Bessarabian Bulgarians from the southern part of Ukraine and Moldova.